The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
nobody appeared to relish it more than the hard-hit Democrat.  The Cleveland cry of “Four, four, four years more” was met forcibly and effectively with the simple adaptation, “Four, four, four months more,” which proved the more prophetic of that gentleman’s then stay at the White House.  At midnight, three days later, I was jammed in the midst of a yelling crowd in Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, watching the electoral returns thrown by a stereopticon light, as they arrived, on large white sheets.  Keener or more interested partisans I never saw; but at the same time I never saw a more good-humored crowd.  If I encountered one policeman that night that was all I did see; and the police reports next morning, in a city of a million inhabitants let loose in the streets on a public holiday, reported the arrest of five drunk men and one pickpocket!

Election bets are often made payable in practical jokes instead of in current coin.  Thus, after election day you will meet a defeated Republican wheeling his Democratic friend through the chuckling crowd in a wheelbarrow, or walking down the Bond Street of his native town with a coal-black African laundress on his arm.  But in such forms of jesting as in “White Hat Day,” at the Stock Exchange of New York, Americans come perilously near the Londoner’s standard of the truly funny.

In comparing American humour with English we must take care that we take class for class.  Those of us who find it difficult to get up a laugh at Judge, or Bill Nye, or Josh Billings, have at least to admit that they are not quite so feeble as Ally Sloper and other cognate English humorists.  When we reach the level of Artemus Ward, Ik Marvel, H.C.  Bunner, Frank Stockton, and Mark Twain, we may find that we have no equally popular contemporary humorists of equal excellence; and these are emphatically humorists of a pure American type.  If humour of a finer point be demanded it seems to me that there are few, if any, living English writers who can rival the delicate satiric powers of a Henry James or the subtle suggestiveness of Mr. W.D.  Howells’ farces, for an analogy to which we have to look to the best French work of the kind.  But this takes us beyond the scope of this chapter, which deals merely with the humour of the “Man on the Cars.”

FOOTNOTES: 

[16] In an English issue of Artemus Ward, apparently edited by Mr. John Camden Hotten (Chatto and Windus), this passage is accompanied with the following gloss:  “Here again Artemus called in the aid of pleasant banter as the most fitting apology for the atrocious badness of the painting.”

This note is an excellent illustration of English obtuseness—­if needed, on the part of the reading public; if needless, on the part of the editor.

IX

American Journalism—­A Mixed Blessing

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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